‘That’s what they mean by the love that passeth understanding:
that pride, that furious desire to hide that abject nakedness which
we bring here with us, carry with us into operating rooms,
carry stubbornly and furiously with us into the earth again.’
In the stifling heat of a Mississippi summer, a woman lies on her deathbed. From her airless room, she can hear her son sawing planks to make her coffin. Two other sons have left to fetch timber; they know that they could miss the moment of their mother’s passing but they cannot resist the chance to earn three dollars. Addie Bundren’s one request is to be buried in Jefferson, 40 miles away. Her family’s terrible journey there will be plagued with disasters of almost biblical proportions, including a flooded river that threatens to sweep away the coffin entirely.
First published in 1930, As I Lay Dying is an unforgettable portrait of a poverty-stricken American family. The narrative is shared by 15 members of the Bundren clan, their neighbours and acquaintances: Jewel, Addie’s favourite son, whose real father is the preacher Whitfield; Addie’s work-shy husband Anse, who fears that if he ever sweats he will die; their daughter Dewey Dell, who has pinned her hopes on the trip to Jefferson in order to terminate a pregnancy. As each of the narrators speaks, an utterly compelling picture of their relationships, secrets, rivalries and frustrations emerges. Faulkner’s style at times resembles the stream-of-consciousness of Joyce and Woolf, informed by the rhythms of Southern speech and its unanswerable truths: ‘And then, life wasn’t made to be easy on folks: they wouldn’t ever have any reason to be good and die.’
William Faulkner was born in New Albany, Mississippi, in 1897. With the publication of The Sound and the Fury in 1929 he became a dominant force in American literature, the most prominent of the group of 20th-century Southern writers that includes Flannery O’Connor, Truman Capote and Eudora Welty. Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1949. This edition contains a new introduction by William Gay, a leading light amongst the contemporary writers of the American South.
Read more about the life and work of William Faulkner